Cuba stands up to blockade
By Elizabeth Llewellyn
SYDNEY — Cuba is successfully adopting emergency measures to cope with the United States economic blockade and the collapse of its trade with the former eastern bloc, visiting Cuban trade unionist Augustin Lopez told a meeting of young Australian socialists on May 16.
Despite the country's problems, Cuban medicine is still up to and in some cases ahead of world standards, Lopez told the Resistance members. Cuban scientists have recently developed a drug for treating high blood cholesterol, others have developed a new insecticide from sugar cane, the country has just harvested its largest ever potato crop, tomato production has increased, 160,000 hectares of rice have been harvested, and the whole country is working on new techniques to increase food production.
The Cuban government has reinforced its policies of open dialogue with the people so they are well informed about the economic situation. This approach appears to be working, as energy consumption was recently reduced by 18% in response to an appeal for a 10% reduction.
Cuba has an extensive environmental plan, including a $250 million, 25-year project to rehabilitate Havana Bay. There are decontamination programs for most rivers, and a plan to educate people in natural medicines. The timber industry is required to plant five trees for every one it extracts.
Meanwhile, US President George Bush is tightening the economic blockade. The US last year threatened retaliation against any government that cooperated with Cuba in its attempt to have the United Nations overturn the blockade. Bush recently contravened international law with an announcement that ships visiting Cuba would be banned from US ports.